“Shoot to kill” backfires as more lead in the air quickly turns into a foul stench

By Branko Brkic 13 October 2009

They were told to shoot to kill. They did. But someone forgot to tell them who to shoot.

Almost inevitably, the gung-ho attitude toward policemen using their weapons has backfired – the only surprise being how quickly it has happened. The shooting of 30-year-old hairdresser Olga Kekana by members of the Pretoria flying squad, Rietgat police station and the Soshanguve dog unit has dramatically illustrated the dangers of the more aggressive policy endorsed by President Jacob Zuma. The angry commentary of victims which came flooding out yesterday, uncompromisingly blames the shoot-to-kill statements of Zuma, national police commissioner Bheki Cele and police minister Nathi Mthethwa.

“She was my first-born they killed. Why did the politicians and the president give the police the go-ahead to shoot people as they wish? I will never forgive those police who killed her,” Olga’s father, Frans Makgotla, told The Times.

But as fast as the victims blamed the politicians, the politicians ran for cover. Zuma’s spokesman Vincent Magwenya said Zuma never used the words “shoot to kill” when he recently addressed about 1, 800 police officers in Pretoria. Perhaps not, but the sense of what he was saying was crystal clear: stop pussyfooting around, use your weapon. The policy issues aside, as the reports of what actually happened on Saturday night come tumbling out, it’s becoming increasingly clear this particular incident is a shit-storm of note.

Police mistook Air Force pilot Captain Simon Mathebula’s grey Toyota Conquest for a hijacked Toyota Corolla. They fired 72 shots into the car. Mathebula claims the police who shot at his car actually fled the scene and it took two hours to find out who shot at them. They eventually found out via Radio 702. The police’s story is that the car did not stop after being ordered to do so, and so they riddled it with bullets.

Amazingly, the cops are still on duty pending the investigation.

Is there any lesson from this tragic incident? Perhaps it’s: The reason crimes are not solved in South Africa is not because the police don’t use their guns, but because they don’t solve crimes. More fire power is not the solution; more brain power is – starting with the glaring differences between a Toyota Conquest and a Toyota Corolla.

By Tim Cohen

Read more: Times Live


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